How Coffee Beers Get Their Distinct Taste Without The Beans

When The Rolling Stones sang "You can't always get what you want," they had obviously never tried coffee beer. Talk about the best of both worlds. Turns out your morning pick-me-up and your evening bevy might be a match made in heaven. Step aside, espresso martini

Why does it work? As surprising as it might seem, coffee and beer have similar flavor profiles — chocolatey, bittersweet, nutty, oaky, and fruity are all descriptors in both the coffee and beer vocabulary word banks, per Eldorado Coffee Roasters. Zachary Mack, owner of New York's Alphabet City Beer Co., says the flavor and smell of coffee naturally blend with the profile of your favorite brew — especially darker beers like porter, via Food and Wine. Coffee beer usually has a stout or porter base, says Craft Beer, but some brewers are experimenting with using sours and pale ales to build their coffee brew. Plus, both beverages require a roasting process to be made. But unlike actual coffee, coffee beers roast grains, not beans. So, how do they get that distinct coffee taste? 

The roast with the most

Just like roasters crafting a batch of beans, coffee beer is created in a number of ways. Many brewers add literal coffee grounds straight to the grain as it ferments, according to Fresh Coffee House. Some brewers even add espresso, per Coffee Affection. According to Black Rifle Coffee Company, many coffee beers achieve that classic coffee taste without any beans at all by emulating the flavor notes signature to most coffee blends. Brewmasters infuse grains with ingredients like chocolate or chicory during the roasting process, which mimics the aromatic profile of your morning cuppa joe.

Other brewers infuse beer with cold brew, similar to how coffee roasters make the real thing. Unlike the regular hot drip you'd make in your coffee pot, cold brew uses a higher concentration of grounds per steeping water, per North Star Roast. When translating this process to beer brewing, the only difference is that the steeping water is swapped out for liquor. To do it, brewers steep coffee grounds in liquor for 1-2 days, then strain the saturated liquor and add it to the beer, via Eldorado Coffee Roasters. Not only does this minimize excess water content, but it also creates a more heavily-concentrated coffee flavor, just like in cold brew. Any way you choose to infuse, you're sure to be in for a coffee beer mouthful that works as hard around the clock as you do.